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Latest Music and Book Reviews
Worship Forever (Live) by Michael W. Worship Forever (Live) by Michael W.
What You Need to Know
Known for his live worship albums, Worship, Worship...
Into The Mystery by NEEDTOBREATHE Into The Mystery by NEEDTOBREATHE
What You Need to Know
South Carolina's Grammy-nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE...
Hymn of Heaven by Phil Hymn of Heaven by Phil
What You Need to Know
Leading corporate worship nationwide, Phil...

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Worship Forever His Name | Posted September-09-2021
What You Need to Know

Known for his live worship albums, Worship, Worship Again, A New Hallelujah, and Surrounded, in tribute to the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001 (the date Worship released), Michael W. Smith has delivered Worship Forever, an intimate and stirring recording that will make you feel like you’re in the room. This collection brings Smitty back to the heart of what he does best-- leading people in worship.

 


What it Sounds Like

If you’ve always enjoyed Smitty’s corporate worship anthems, you’re in for a treat with this album. The exciting Tomlin-penned opener "Forever" sets the tone with the spoken word Bible verse intro, the upbeat orchestral musical arrangement, and the crowd reactions (that is, clapping and singing along).



There's an energetic and urgent tone in every song, starting with the stirring lyrics “Forever God is faithful/Forever God is strong/Forever God is with us, Forever." The call to worship flows seamlessly from song to song, as I find myself frequently singing these catchy and familiar choruses throughout the day.



The songs all have catchy and singable melodies, so you’ll want to crank the volume. Not to mention you'll want to sing along with Smitty and the choir, which can be heard throughout each song. I found reconnecting with these songs an enjoyable experience.




Spiritual Highlights

Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, spirit-led, and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song.



Recent popular songs “Surrounded” and “Waymaker” are reminders that our worship of God should not be based on our circumstances and instead is based on who God is. Commit your life to Jesus and offer Him your heart and your life as you sing along with these great songs. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album.


 

Best Song on the Record

There are several standout songs on the album. Many of the songs are arranged in a very singable and catchy style. My personal favorites are “Above All,” and “Agnes Dei” featuring Amy Grant. People can certainly relate to the "This is how I fight my battles" imagery of the song “Surrounded (Fight My Battles).”



The lyrics in the chorus, "It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You" have been resonating with me since I first heard this compelling song (it makes me realize that Jesus commands us to trust God completely no matter the circumstances or personal distractions or concerns).



"Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" was written based on scriptures that any follower of Jesus can sing and say yes and amen to every word. The song represents life and includes some great challenges to step out in faith and trust in God--even when you want to give up or can't see where you're going.



We aren't the source of the power to overcome our challenges. God is our greater power source that brings true power. In our weakness, God's strength is perfect. Remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? The beauty and majesty of our King Jesus is reverently captured throughout the album with anthem after anthem.


 

For Fans Of

Hillsong Worship, Bethel MusicJeremy RiddleElevation WorshipJesus Culture



Final Word

This is a completely worshipful album, in the passionate style that Michael W. Smith has become known for. This is a must-own collection for worship leaders looking for congregational friendly arrangements of recent and classic standout worship songs ranging from songs by artists Upperroom and Leeland to popular songs by iconic artists Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Paul Baloche, and Smitty’s original classic, “Agnes Dei.”



These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically-based lyrics. Musically, this album is very soothing, and the songs are all edifying, challenging, and filled with very biblical lyrics. Backed by an orchestra and choir on every song, Smitty’s personal and vulnerable vocals have never sounded better.


 



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Captivates My Spirit | Posted July-29-2021
What You Need to Know

South Carolina's Grammy-nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE hooked me 15 years ago with their major-label debut Daylight, which featured the single "Shine On." My takeaway review comments were "Great album. Even better group." Since then, the band has managed to improve their craft with each album, garner an opening slot for Taylor Swift, play on late-night television, and collaborate with Gavin DeGraw on one of their biggest hits to date, "Brother," from my Top Album of 2014Rivers in the WastelandThat album earned a Grammy nomination for "Multiplied" and features the standout song "Difference Maker."

In their album H A R D L O V E—my Top Album of 2016—the band subtly includes the reference to the dance of life in a few contexts, taking us on the journey of life lessons learned in "HARD LOVE." 

 

During quarantine, NEEDTOBREATHE created—composed and recorded—their eighth studio album, Into the Mystery, which includes standouts "I Wanna Remember," featuring country superstar Carrie Underwood, and the successful title track. This is the second studio full-length album the band has released in less than a year. In 2020, the band released Out of Body, which includes hit songs "Who Am I" and "Survival."


 

What it Sounds Like

What I take immense joy in discovering with each new NEEDTOBREATHE release is the incredible songwriting and musical excellence with nuggets of lyrical connection weaving their way throughout the tracks. This surprisingly quick follow-up new studio album captivates my spirit. The album includes standout recordings like the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthems "Carry Me," feat. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, "Sunshine," "I Am Yours," and "I Wanna Remember," featuring Carrie Underwood, along with the reflective vibe of "What I’m Here For," "Into the Mystery," "Innocence" and "Chances." I have long been hooked by their enthusiastic songs, layered with a southern rock musical vibe. I've felt the band has improved with each new album. I can’t get enough of the emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic, and thought-provoking lyrics throughout the album, which has echoes of Out of Body both in content and musical vibe as the band has undergone a transformation to a trio-Bear Rinehart [vocals, guitar], Seth Bolt [bass, vocals], and Josh Lovelace [keys, vocals].

 

Spiritual Highlights

We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, which is expressed in the standout “I Am Yours”: “’Cause I am yours/And you will always be mine/It seems like madness I’m invited to the table by your side/Cause I am yours/And you will always be mine/I'm a man whose one ambition is to dance with my divine.” An artistic answer to their previous song "Who Am I," "I Am Yours" is a soaring work about God’s undying love for us. It's clear that the themes of relying on God's grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, "What I’m Here For," "Into the Mystery," "Sunshine," "Carry Me," "Innocence" and "Chances." You'll be hooked right from the opening notes of "What I’m Here For," which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: "I feel like we could find it/If we knocked on heaven's door/I'd say God, I'm only human/You'd say that's what I'm here for!”

 

Best Song on the Record

"I Am Yours" is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Our thoughts are constantly under attack by the enemy. We're aware of many situations involving people taking their own lives after dealing with depression. If you're struggling with depression, especially with this past year of social distancing due to COVID-19, please know with certainty the truth in the song’s life-giving words. Allow the Holy Spirit to cast the light of life into your body. I am really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, inspirational lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs I can’t wait to hear in concert including "Into the Mystery," "Carry Me," "I Am Yours" and "Sunshine." If you've always enjoyed NEEDTOBREATHE’s soulful anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat rockers and reflective songs. Many of these songs express my emo feelings, and yet remind me that I wasn't made for this world. These songs will have you singing along in one listen. "Into the Mystery" connects deeply with the lyrics, “We are sons and daughters/We are flesh and dust/We are pulled from the wreckage/We are not alone/We are lovers broken/We are vicarious dreams/We are tumbling/In space out of control/Into the mystery.”



For Fans Of

Switchfoot, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Third Day, Unspoken



Final Word

NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God. This is one of my top albums of the year from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. They have long been my favorite band. I truly enjoy their entire catalog and especially their stand-out hit songs "Happiness," "Hang On" and "Who Am I." If you like those songs, you'll love this new album. Into the Mystery is one of the catchiest, most energetic, and emotionally engaging albums I've heard this year and it is sure to be one of my top albums of the year.

 



 

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Worship Album of the Year | Posted June-24-2021
What You Need to Know

Leading corporate worship nationwide, Phil Wickham is known for hits such as “At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh),” “This is Amazing Grace,”Your Love Awakens Me,” “Song in My Soul,” and “Living Hope.” His 2018 release Living Hope was my top worship album of 2018. He describes the truths he is learning with a powerful and poignant voice through enthusiastic and passionate cries of worship. After a three-year wait, Wickham returns with Hymn of Heaven. The album was preceded by the impactful singles, “Battle Belongs,” “House of the Lord” and “It’s Always Been You.”



What it Sounds Like

I've long been a fan of Brit-rock bands like U2, Keane, Snow Patrol and others who make emotional alternative rock music, but don't always have edifying messages. The first time I heard Phil Wickham's song "Grace" from his self-titled major label debut, I was hooked by his enthusiastic and reverent songs, layered with a Brit-rock musical vibe. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and Hymn of Heaven takes me to another realm of holiness and thirsting for God's presence. Phil Wickham has breathed several new worship anthems into the Church, like "You're Beautiful," "Cannons," "Because of Your Love," “This is Amazing Grace,” “Stand in Awe,” “Great Things” and “Living Hope.” We sing all of those songs at my church on a regular basis and you’ll want to add “Battle Belongs,” “House of the Lord,” “Hymn of Heaven,” “It’s Always Been You,” “Where I’m Standing Now” and “God of Revival” to your worship set-lists immediately.

 

Spiritual Highlights

“Battle Belongs” is exactly the type of catchy corporate worship song I’ve come to love from Phil Wickham. What I love about this powerful standout anthem is its convicting declaration: “So when I fight/I'll fight on my knees/With my hands lifted high/Oh God, the battle belongs to You." The song’s energy and excitement are infectious. It makes me lift my hands up to God and sing before Him, like King David—passionately unashamed. You’ll also instantly sing along with "Hymn of Heaven,” “It’s Always Been You," “Where I’m Standing Now” featuring Brandon Lake, "His Name is Jesus," and “God of Revival.” Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song, with expressions including “Who stood with me in the fire/It was You, it was always You/Who pulled me out of the water/It was You, it was always You/And who carried me/On their shoulders/It was You, I know it’s You" in the standout instant classic, “It’s Always Been You.”

 

Best Song on the Record

“House of the Lod” gives me a lot of joy, and my heartbeat is to please the Lord. I love songs that allow me to have fun and praise God at the same time, and this song certainly does that. I really enjoy how my love of fun, uplifting music and biblical truth is perfectly married in this song. The song is also a great reminder that our circumstances don't define our joy. Our position in Christ and His unending faithfulness is worthy of all our gratitude and adoration. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in this instant classic song. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs. If you've always enjoyed Wickham’s corporate worship anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance upbeat and reflective songs and it is chock-full of songs for the Church and songs for personal reflection and worship.



For Fans Of

Bethel Music, Jeremy Riddle, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture



Final Word

This album provides listeners with songs that proclaim acceptance of God’s love in any circumstance. Hymn of Heaven provides words of appreciation and adoration of God. Phil’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing praise and worship songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my top worship album of the year. It is a completely worshipful album, in the style of Phil's previous offerings of enthusiastic praise and worship. Every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set.

 

 

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Moving and Prayerful | Posted June-23-2021
What You Need to Know

I first heard Ellie Holcomb sing with her husband's band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors when they opened for rock band NEEDTOBREATHE. Ellie is the daughter of legendary Christian music producer, Brown Bannister.  So far, Ellie has quite a storied career as a solo artist. First, she dropped two EPs, Magnolia and With You Now. Then, she released her debut full-length album As Sure As the Sun, which features the hit songs “The Broken Beautiful” and title track “As Sure As the Sun,” That album earned Ellie the GMA Dove Award for Best New Artist.   Afterward, Ellie released Red Sea Road, a thirteen song album featuring standouts "Find You Here" and “He Will.” That release was one of my Top 10 Albums of 2017. Now, four years later, Ellie is back with her latest release, Canyon.

 

What it Sounds Like

The opening track, “I Don’t Want to Miss It” is an engaging song with Ellie's passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional effort. The song is an unashamed declaration of faith based on Zephaniah 3:17 which reminds us that God is singing over us. Ellie hooked me with the lyrics: “No, I don't want to miss it/No, I don't want to miss a thing/I don't want to miss the melody/That You've been singing over me.” Canyon’s songs “I Don’t Want to Miss It,” “Color,” and the title track showcase Ellie's passionate vocals, thus setting the tone for an exceptional album. “Canyon” is a wonderful prayer-song capturing Ellie’s heart for God, allowing us to eavesdrop on her deep thoughts and musings about God. She sings the song with the reminder, “There’s a river running through/My deepest pain/There’s a river running through/Every dream that never came true/Made me a canyon but there’s/A river running through,” which is in essence the thesis statement for this compelling album.

 


Spiritual Highlights

Ellie is an anointed songwriter. She has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing, and inspirational truths. Ellie has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. God promises us in His Word that His mercies are new every morning. Whatever situation you are facing you can know that God is with you, always. That truth is tenderly portrayed in “Color.” Ellie praises the loving and sacrificial attributes of our Savior as she achingly sings, “Am I worthy of the chances that I'm surrounded with/The shame that I am drowning in/The salt in my woundedness/Am I worthy of the pain that I buried in the dust/Of a God who I'm scared to trust/Tell me am I worthy of it.” The album is loaded with that type of profound lyrical truth as Ellie tenderly sings about her source of hope, Jesus. Throughout the song she achingly sings “this world is made of color” which is a worshipful response to her Savior reflecting the blessed hope of someone who understands the Good News of grace.

 

Best Song on the Record

I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that's “Constellations” which I can't listen to without welling up. Ellie’s emotive and powerful vocals take listeners on an emotional journey that gives me goose bumps every time I hear the song and I lift my eyes and heart to Heaven every time I hear the song, filled with truth. Your heart will be moved to sing along with Ellie, “Out here in the dark/Underneath a canopy of stars/Constellations falling from Your heart/They tell me that I'm not alone/I know that I'm never alone/'Cause You find me and bring me back home.” I also can’t get enough of “Sweet Ever After,” which features Bear Rinehart from NEEDTOBREATHE and “Mine” which features Ellie’s husband Drew. You can sincerely sing these prayerful lyrics, and cling to the truth of these powerful songs. Every song will have you hanging on each word that Ellie tenderly sings. Her vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus.

 

For Fans Of

Leanna CrawfordFrancesca Battistelli, Lauren Daigle, Riley Clemmons, Plumb

 

Final Word

This is a Spirit-filled and emotional listening experience filled with profound lyrical truth. All the songs are catchy, worshipful, and biblically inspired. The artist expresses her prayers to God, allowing listeners to eavesdrop on her worshipful offerings and captivating ballads, one of Ellie's strengths. The album tells the story of redemption as each song gives a glimpse of how Ellie offers her Psalm-like prayers to God. Ellie is an anointed songwriter and she has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing, and inspirational truths. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs. Don't hesitate to pick up this great return from one of CCM's top female artists. These songs are all stand-out tracks filled with overwhelming biblical truth and are companions in my personal prayer and worship time. Ellie has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. Ellie brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. Canyon is sure to be one of the top albums of the year. This is truly a moving and prayerful album.

 



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Album of the Year | Posted June-03-2021
What You Need to Know

21 year-old Riley Clemmons’ self-titled debut album Riley Clemmons includes the hit singles, “Broken Prayers” and “Better For It” and it was one of my Top 10 Albums of the Decade. Clemmons followed that up with her hit singles, “Fighting For Me,” “Over and Over,” “Healing” and her newest single, “Keep on Hoping." With comparisons to contemporaries ranging from Kelly Clarkson and Demi Lovato to Natalie Grant and Britt Nicole, Clemmons’ seemingly effortless, rich and pure vocal tone exhibits the passion and confidence of a seasoned artist. Riley’s songwriting is real, honest, and vulnerable, and she is positive, determined, and confident.

 

What it Sounds Like

Godsend features an empowering theme of the Lord reigning in our hearts and minds in song after song and how we are reminded that the Lord's glory, His strength, is found in our weakness. Opening song “Healing” celebrates that truth. These lyrics are totally encouraging: “Gave myself some grace/And my soul began to feel the change/I let love flood my heart/Like the sun upon a tear-stained face.”  Hit song “Over and Over” also declares the thesis statement of the album, "You keep running to me/No matter where I am/Over and over again.” The album gives listeners words to “Keep on Hoping” with declarations like, "There’s hope for a better tomorrow/There’s hope for joy over sorrow/Cause God’s still good/And He’s still got it all in control.”

 

Spiritual Highlights

Riley has impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. We’ve spoken for a behind the song devotional about “Fighting For Me” from this album and Riley wrote that song based on many scriptures where the Lord tells us “Do not be afraid,” including 2 Chronicles 20:17: "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” A sincere desire for God to take our thoughts captive is found in every song such as the declaration, “With all those voices in your head/Just don’t, don’t ever forget/That God’s still good and He’s still got it all in control“ in the standout, “Keep On Hoping.” Each of her songs are about proclaiming her dependence on God throughout this stellar offering. The album is designed to be listened to in track order as you’ll go on the journey with Riley from “Healing” with the confession-“I found strength through the pain/What was broken is standing again/And I’m healing,” to the standout “I’m Not Alone” with the declaration-”You are for me/Not against me/I call on Your Name/You silence the shame/You hear me, You’re with me/I know I’m not alone.”



Best Song on the Record

I can’t get enough of “Godsend” and it sets the tone for the entire experience with the beautiful declaration of dependence in the chorus of God’s provision in our lives—“What if maybe every broken place I’ve been was a Godsend?” His love is never-ending, and He is our refuge and our strength. If you are looking for a firm foundation in your life, make these lyrics of “Fighting For Me” your personal prayer: “Cause You love me like nobody else, You stand up for me in the darkest night, when my faith is weak You’re still by my side, You will never stop fighting for me.” Faith is when we are empty of ourselves and are filled with Him and His Holy Spirit. This album is filled with moving prayers of thankfulness including the gorgeous “Over and Over.” You’ll be singing along, I thought I was unlovable till You told this heart of mine, I’m worth more than my past mistakes, I’m never too far gone to save.”



For Fans Of

Natalie Grant, Britt Nicole, Amanda CookKristene DiMarcoKim Walker-Smith



Final Word

Godsend is about proclaiming the majesty of God and crying out in awe and wonder for His Presence. All of the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful. These moving and reverent recordings are all prayers and personal confessions of submission to God and they are poignant songs of adoration. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. Riley’s powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings. She invites listeners into her life by sharing what's on her heart and relying on God’s grace in her edifying lyrics. The standout songs each feature an engaging and emotive musical style while phrasing her prayer-filled songs in a creative and personal way, making it my top album of the year.

 



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Let Yourself Be Loved | Posted April-29-2021
What You Need to Know

MercyMe has topped the charts for more than 20 years since they released their multi-platinum single "I Can Only Imagine," which is the most downloaded song in the history of Christian music. They have followed that up with hit after hit, including "God with Us," "All of Creation," "Beautiful," "The Hurt & the Healer," "Greater” and “Even If." Inhale (Exhale) has been one of my most anticipated albums of 2021. It has songs with inspirational story-style lyrics that will immediately cause you to worship and sing along with these ultra-talented musicians, lead singer Bart Millard, guitarists Mike Scheuchzer and Barry Graul, bassist Nathan Cochran, and drummer Robby Shaffer. The very relatable and transparent words of these songs perfectly depict our daily walks as believers wrapped around catchy songs. All the tracks really display the musical and lyrical excellence and intentionality of MercyMe. These are catchy melodies and biblically-based lyrics reflecting unashamed faith. Every song on this stellar collection displays the band’s heart of what they do, leading people in worship of our Savior, reminding us as believers that, “With all your strength/Sister run wild run free/Hold up your head/Keep pressing on/We are almost home.”

 

What it Sounds Like

This band can really write a hooky and truth-filled chorus, and the single “Say I Won’t” is catchy, relevant and worshipful like their previous hit songs “Hold Fast,” “Flawless” and “Even If.” The song has an uplifting message based on the inspirational story of Gary Miracle. The chorus is very stirring and convicting, “I'm gonna run/No I'm gonna fly/I'm gonna know what it means to live and not just be alive.” “Let Yourself Be Loved” features Bart Millard’s tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about faith in our God and to live out the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In many ways, the main message of this album is to “let yourself be loved/See yourself as Jesus does.” If you’ve always liked MercyMe, this album will absolutely connect with you.

 

Spiritual Highlights

“Say I Won’t” reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Other highlights include “On Our Way (feat. Sam Wesley),” “So Yesterday,” “A Little Love (feat. Gary Levox),” “Bright Side of Broken” and “Almost Home.” Poignant song “The Moment” is a stirring testimony song reminding us of our salvation day with a convicting declaration: “The fire in your bones will never let you down…Praise the Lord and say, here’s to the day that I met grace." Like previous MercyMe albums, these songs are all filled with spiritual truth. The hope of the Gospel is heard loud and clear, “Love is patient, love is so kind, because He loved us first we know…the world is going to know us by our love” in the standout “A Little Love.”

 

Best Song on the Record

I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. “On Our Way” is an upbeat and catchy song in the vein of “Greater,” and “Move,” which are among my favorite MercyMe songs. I find myself singing the worshipful lyrics throughout the day, “As long as we have hope, we have everything!” That theme is echoed in “Bright Side of Broken,” which will have you crying out, “It’s gonna be okay!”

 

“Almost Home” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart, “I know that the cross has brought heaven to us/But make no mistake/There’s still more to come/When our flesh and our bone/Are no longer between/Where we are right now/And where we’re meant to be.” There are several stand-out songs, and “Say I Won’t” is an uplifting offering of praise to the only One who has power to save. It is a very sing-able song, and I love singing, The world's gonna hear/Cause I'm gonna shout/And I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out/Say I won't.”


 

For Fans Of

Big Daddy Weave, Matthew West, Tenth Avenue North



Final Word

This new album demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made MercyMe one of Christian music's most compelling acts. True to form, this new project Inhale (Exhale) reflects real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude, with front man Bart Millard’s forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. It derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically based lyrics.

 

This has been my most anticipated album of 2021, and I’m pleased to say it exceeds my expectations as I could not “imagine” they could outdo themselves. This incredible band has once again released their newest best album. It has a very warm musical style that will immediately soothe your soul and cause you to worship and sing along with these ultra-talented musicians. The album has a comforting and cohesive theme as each song threads the message of how “I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out.” This is sure to be one of the top albums of the year.


 



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Free Like a River! | Posted April-17-2021
What You Need to Know

NEEDTOBREATHE has very quickly become one of my all-time favorite bands. They know how to move me with such amazing and spiritual lyrics that truly reflect how I feel as a Christian.



Live From the Woods, Vol. 2 is an incredible live album recorded after a year of quarantine and not touring to support their recent album Out of Body. The new live project celebrates our freedom to sing together after we’ve been--and continue to be--socially distanced from one another.



To me, this new release is an ode to freedom and a celebration of the fellowship of community that brings people together. You'll want to sing along in unison with this outdoor crowd in the woods of Tennessee.


 

What it Sounds Like

Listening to “Mercy’s Shore” to open the 15-track collection, it's clear that the themes of relying on God’s grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, “Alive,” “Who Am I,” “Banks,” “Survival” and “Child Again.”



You’ll be hooked right from the opening notes of “Mercy’s Shore” which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: “One day we’ll wash up on mercy’s shore!” Fans of the band’s trademark high energy live shows will flock to “Prisoner,” “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Alive,” “Great Night” and “Riding High.”



This album reminded me of how much I really miss live music. If you feel the same, then don’t miss out on this amazing live recording. I also got choked up at first listen. At the piano intro of “Prisoner,” I realized how much I miss the community of fellowship, singing songs in-person with strangers.


 

Spiritual Highlights

We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, which is expressed in the standout, “Who Am I”: “Somehow You really love who I really am/I push You away/Still You won’t let go…Who am I to be loved by You? The beautiful strings accentuate the biblically inspired message of “Garden,” which lead vocalist Bear Rinehart describes as one of the band’s most requested songs from their album, The Outsiders. The song features the gorgeous prayer, “Let the songs I sing bring joy to You/Let the words I say confess my love/Let the notes I choose be Your favorite tune/Father let my heart be after You.” It’s a moving song that celebrates the freedom we have in Christ based on His sacrifice for us.

 

Best Song

“Who Am I” is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Only Jesus can give us our identity. What a powerful expression of what it means to accept that God never leaves or forsakes us. I'm profoundly moved by the lyrics, “You grow Your roses on my barren soul/Who am I to be loved by You?”



There are several standout songs. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, inspirational lyrics on other songs, specifically “Alive,” Banks,” “Garden,” and “Bridges Burn/Forever On Your Side.”



I’ve had the privilege to see this band in concert a dozen times. This album is the next best thing to seeing them live. “Child Again,” is a beautiful standout song, musically and perhaps even more so lyrically, reflecting the band's wide range of sounds and emotional expressions. The lyrics to “Child Again” are prayerful and moving: “I know that gettin' hurt/Is really how redemption works/My ego is a ball and chain/My instincts only make it worse/In the mornin' light/I don't want to run from pain/You know I can't afford to cheapen grace/I know that pain just means my soul's awake.” The takeaway message of unity and freedom to the band and for all of us is found in the moving bridge, “You're my hope unbroken/You're my innocence/I am free like a river/I'm a child again.” It’s that range of songwriting that sets this album on the highest level for me, and is why they are my favorite band.


 

For Fans Of

SwitchfootDrew Holcomb & The NeighborsThird DayUnspoken



Final Word 

NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're at in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God.



Live From the Woods, Vol. 2 is one of my top live albums I’ve ever heard from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. NEEDTOBREATHE has long been my favorite band.



If you've always enjoyed the band's soulful anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat rockers and reflective ballads. Many of these songs express my emo feelings. Yet, remind me that I wasn't made for this world.



These songs will have you singing along in one listen. “Banks” connects deeply with the lyrics, “I wanna be there when the darkness closes in/To make the truth a little clearer/I wanna hold you close but never hold you back/I'll be the banks for your river.”



No matter your situation, this band has songs that can really bring healing and reflect the cry of your heart. The very relatable and transparent words of these songs use poetic descriptions and biblical language throughout these stellar tracks, resulting in NEEDTOBREATHE’s celebration of the freedom of community gathering around live music. Sing along, “I am free like a river, I’m a child again.”


 



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Captivating and Passionate | Posted March-25-2021
What You Need to Know

Harry Connick, Jr. is a critically lauded singer, songwriter, and jazz musician, as well as actor. Connick, Jr. released his collection of hymns and original songs that both pay homage to his childhood heritage and to his faith as he recorded these songs during the pandemic. From my first listen, I was totally captivated by this jazz-infused worship album by Harry Connick, Jr. I'm really engaged by his emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. For me, Harry brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen.

 

What it Sounds Like

The album includes new recordings of some of Harry’s favorite songs of the faith. Don't miss his jazzy renditions of “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.” Both songs are incredible prayers, flawlessly delivered by Harry’s smooth and sincere vocals layered over textured and powerful musical arrangements. I'm emotionally moved by the prayerful songs "Be Not Afraid," "Benevolent Man” and “All These Miracles.” When you put yourself under a microscope and examine whether you really believe the words of these great songs, you'll find that it will challenge your faith and how closely you are walking with God. These songs also give insight into Harry's walk as a believer in God.

 

Spiritual Highlights

I find many of the songs, like “Be Not Afraid,” “Because He Lives” and “The Old Rugged Cross” proclaim my heart's cry to worship my King, Jesus. Those songs and their dependence on God have perfectly poetic biblical descriptions of God and are filled with piercingly difficult truths to believe all the time. They are emotive and poetic descriptions of a beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us. You'll want to join fellow believers in singing these words. You'll be worshipping right along with Harry. You can sincerely pray these biblical and prayerful words, and cling to the truth of these powerful songs. The word of the Lord doesn’t return void, and these songs put God’s Word in the mouths of believers reminding them of the truth of God’s promises. My personal devotional prayer has been to have more faith and “Be Not Afraid” is my heart’s cry and anthem to sing daily in praise to the Lord, regardless of my circumstances, doubts or worry. The song is based on The Beatitudes and proclaims, “And blessed are your poor/For the kingdom shall be theirs/Blest are you that weep and mourn/For one day you shall laugh/And if wicked men insult and hate you/All because of Me/Blessed, blessed are you.” It’s an extremely moving portrayal of God’s love for us.



Best Song on the Record

I am very moved by “Alone with My Faith.” The lyrics are very stirring: Alone with my faith/What I know is true/What gives me assurance/When I don't know what to do/I don't have all the answers/But I have always known/I'm eternally faithful/So I am never alone.” The song is poignant and powerful with earnest, worshipful lyrics and reflects the boldness for Jesus to that I pray for my daughters’ to feel in their hearts as well. Join in with Harry and proclaim, I still believe/My story's not over/I'm making my way/Just not like I planned/I still see the sun rise/I still see the rain fall/I know who I am/And I know where I stand.”



For Fans Of

Lauren DaigleKristene DiMarcoFernando Ortega, Steven Curtis Chapman



Final Word

These excellent songs are all prayers and personal confessions of submission to God. These are great songs to pray along with Harry and express your own yearnings for holiness and God's presence. These are captivating and passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with faith-based lyrics. A sincere desire for the presence of God is found in every song. Every song will have you hanging on each word that Harry tenderly sings. His vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. All the songs are catchy, reverent, and worshipful. Alone with My Faith is a must-have for your praise and worship collection.

 



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Soul-stirring and stunning | Posted February-11-2021
What You Need to Know

This long-awaited solo project Departures by Switchfoot’s front man Jon Foreman has captivated my spirit. The album includes standout recordings like the sing at the top of your lungs anthems “Education” and “Red and Gold,” and the reflective and worshipful vibe of “Side by Side,” “A Place Called Earth,” “Jesus, I Have My Doubts” and “Thanks Be To God.”

 

What it Sounds Like

From my first listen, I wanted to tell others about this great new album which immediately reminded me of some of my favorite emotional alternative rock artists like The Fray, Lifehouse, and Switchfoot’s softer songs. The project opens with “The Ocean Beyond the Sea” which has a reflective and ambient vibe and it builds to an exciting refrain that stirs my soul. I'm really engaged by Jon's emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic and introspective lyrics throughout the album. “Education” is layered with an upbeat alt-rock musical style. The song will have you singing along in one listen. “You lose yourself when you love someone/You lose yourself and you come undone,” is the refrain of the catchy song, which is in some ways the thesis statement of this stellar album.



Spiritual Highlights

I can't get enough of the stand-out song “A Place Called Earth.” Jon's emotive vocals and the Kingdom-focused lyrics takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear the song. It also features Lauren Daigle and expresses Jon’s emotional plea, “Oh I long for heaven in a place called earth/Where every son and daughter will know their worth." From the beginning notes of “Jesus, I Have My Doubts,” I was hooked by the reflective musical vibe and prayerful message. The song declares bold confessional and prayerful statements: "Jesus, has the world gone mad? Jesus, feels like the world's in pieces/I'm sure You've got Your reasons/But I've got my doubts/Jesus, I've got my doubts." The song is a gorgeous offering in the style of David’s Psalms. Other spiritual highlights are found in “Thanks Be To God” with the refrain, “Thanks be to God who delivers me, Christ, Christ alone come and set me free.”



Best Song on the Record

All these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest lyrics sung from the perspective of someone like David in the Psalms or Solomon in Ecclesiastes. “Side By Side” is a beautiful song featuring Madison Cunningham, with Jon displaying emotive vocals with the comforting refrain sung as a duet, “You and I will find the ocean we come from.” “Red and Gold” expresses words of comfort, “So hold your faith, you're not alone here/Stay your pace, you're almost home.” The aforementioned “A Place Called Earth” stopped me in my tracks and caused me to immediately replay the song. You’ll get swept up in the emotion and message of the song, causing your heart to ache for heaven. It’s my early choice for song of the year.

 

For Fans Of

Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, Andrew Peterson, Tenth Avenue North

 

Final Word

This is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith. The songs are poignant and powerful. There are no filler tracks, and this is easily one of my top “gourmet” albums of the year. If you want to experience an uplifting, soul-stirring, stunning and introspective album, look no further than Jon Foreman. These songs will certainly connect with listeners and showcase the multi-talented singer/songwriter's trademark balance of vocal tenderness and intensity, and, above all, a sense of hope and inspiration. This is an incredibly deep, worshipful and emotional album, and Departures is one of my top albums of the year.

 



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His love heals! | Posted December-15-2020
What You Need to Know

Christian contemporary artist Jordan Feliz's debut full-length project, The River, helped put the artist on the map. The album features the very recognizable hit single and We Love Award-winning Song of the Year, "The River." Since then, Jordan has released other hit songs, such as “Never Too Far Gone,” “Best of Me,” “Witness,” and “Faith.” Jordan's music has energy and infectious enthusiasm. His songs also have celebratory messages of faith. Admittedly, I can't help but worship along loudly in spirit and in truth.

 

What it Sounds Like

The combination of his stellar vocals, up-tempo melody and OneRepublic-like musical inflection really brings home the solid gospel messages. His music really hits home with the message: God's grace washes us clean in the river of His Holy Spirit, and we become a new creation in Christ. I must say Jordan's recent singles “Glorify” and “Next to Me” from his new release, Say It, a nominee for a We Love Award for Album of the Year, has really caught my ear.

 

Spiritual Highlights

Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. "Glorify" reminds me that we need to have the type of faith that Jesus describes in the Bible: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jordan expresses with transparency his walk with the Lord and how he relies on God during his battles with self-doubt and anxiety.

 

I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. “Every day we got a reason/Cause church ain’t only on the weekend,” reflects the everyday faith we are called to have in “Glorify.” “Oh, You know I tried to do it on my own/Oh, You say it’s time/For me to come back home/Right next to me,” are the cries of worship in the bridge of the heartfelt and soul-stirring, “Next to Me.”



“Wounds” is a powerful ballad and I love the emotion and biblical truth that Jordan brings to the song. The song features Jordan’s soothing vocals as he prayerfully sings, “I’ve seen the light come in/To my darkest rooms/I can tell you, friend/That His love heals wounds.”

 


Best Song on the Record

There are several standout songs on the album. Many of the songs are arranged in a very sing-able and catchy style, such as "Jesus Is Coming Back" which is filled with great statements of faith, proclaiming Him as the Lord of our lives. The ballad “Wounds” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart and expresses the theme of the album, “His love heals!” "Glorify" is a comforting message saying that there's always hope. Breathe it in like oxygen. God's hope will turn whatever you are going through into something different for His glory. A song that I can’t get out of my head is "Next to Me" so I’ll highlight that song as the must-download track, but you’ll want the whole album. These songs will have you singing along in one listen.

 

For Fans Of

Switchfoot, MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Unspoken

 

Final Word:

With a probing spiritual curiosity and imaginative, self-examining lyrics, this album solidifies Jordan Feliz’s place among the finest song crafters of his day. His poignant songwriting is coupled with musical excellence as each song urges me to better see God. This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. I really enjoy the exciting musical vibe of this album, and the melodies and lyrics are all catchy and biblical.

 

Say It is loaded with great rock beats, catchy melodies, and solid lyrics reflecting unashamed faith in Jesus. Don't miss out on this incredible album, one of the best of the year for sure. Jordan’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my favorite Jordan Feliz album.


 



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